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adjective il·lit·er·ate \(ˌ)i(l)-ˈli-t(ə-)rət\

Simple Definition of illiterate

  • : not knowing how to read or write

  • : having or showing a lack of knowledge about a particular subject

  • : not grammatically correct

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of illiterate

  1. 1 :  having little or no education; especially :  unable to read or write <an illiterate population>

  2. 2 a :  showing or marked by a lack of familiarity with language and literature <an illiterate magazine> b :  violating approved patterns of speaking or writing

  3. 3 :  showing or marked by a lack of acquaintance with the fundamentals of a particular field of knowledge <musically illiterate>

illiterate noun
illiterately adverb
illiterateness noun

Examples of illiterate in a sentence

  1. Constantine is listed in the 1870 census as illiterate; 10 years later, he had learned to read and write. And when, in 1906, the local “colored school” was slated for destruction, Constantine arranged to save it by having it moved to this property. —Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Wall Street Journal, 1 Feb. 2006

  2. Martin is not illiterate but I think close to it. I never saw him read a newspaper, for instance. —Hayden Carruth, Reluctantly, 1998

  3. In a time when nearly everyone was illiterate, before newspapers, radio, and television, how could the religious and iconographic detail of these apparitions have been so similar? —Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World, 1996

  4. She didn't want anyone to know that she was illiterate.

  5. She is politically illiterate and has never voted in an election.

  6. He's illiterate when it comes to computers.

Origin of illiterate

Middle English, from Latin illiteratus, from in- + litteratus literate

First Known Use: 15th century

Synonym Discussion of illiterate

ignorant, illiterate, unlettered, untutored, unlearned mean not having knowledge. ignorant may imply a general condition or it may apply to lack of knowledge or awareness of a particular thing <an ignorant fool> <ignorant of nuclear physics>. illiterate applies to either an absolute or a relative inability to read and write <much of the population is still illiterate>. unlettered implies ignorance of the knowledge gained by reading <an allusion meaningless to the unlettered>. untutored may imply lack of schooling in the arts and ways of civilization <strange monuments built by an untutored people>. unlearned suggests ignorance of advanced subjects <poetry not for academics but for the unlearned masses>.

Rhymes with illiterate

ILLITERATE Defined for Kids



adjective il·lit·er·ate \i-ˈli-tə-rət\

Definition of illiterate for Students

  1. :  unable to read or write



noun il·lit·er·ate

Definition of illiterate for Students

  1. :  a person who is unable to read or write

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